Gear Trends: Performance footwear gets tougher, cozier for 2018

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Boots get a re-tread for wintry conditions.

The Grip Game

Better traction continues to be the goal of many boot brands clamoring to stick their shoes to the most un-sticky surfaces. “Consumers are demanding purpose-built footwear with a technology story, especially in their winter boots,” says Linda Brunzell, Merrell’s chief marketing officer. Sales of winter boots outperformed many other segments last year, and many brands seem eager to get in on the ice-gripping action by using rubber compounds rather than metal spikes. Last year, Vibram’s Arctic Grip sole was the toast of Winter Market, and after a year of exclusivity with Wolverine Worldwide (including Merrell), the tech will migrate out to other brands. Elsewhere, Columbia worked with Michelin to develop the Ice Control sole with winter-ready rubber that grips to -30°F and a lug pattern that provides a stable platform while pushing water and slush out of the tread. It wouldn’t surprise us to see many boots displayed upside down this year.

Light Brigade

Popular wisdom has it that heavy feet drain energy faster than a heavy pack. And the rise of nimble hikers and trail-tough running shoes has now come to winter performance footwear. Instead of developing new, heavyweight boots, many brands are slapping ice-gripping soles on their existing footwear line. Brands like adidas Outdoor are incorporating more lightweight and cold-resistant EVA cushioning into their offerings to provide comfort and warmth. The downside? New features and sole technology can get pricey quick.

Photo courtesy of adidas

Photo courtesy of adidas

The Terrex Conrax Boa ($300) by adidas Outdoor is built for all-around winter use. BOOST technology in the midsole means the boot retains compression and rebound in temps below freezing. The heel lock makes it snowshoe compatible. The upper is insulated with 200g of Primaloft, and a Boa closure system makes for easy adjustment with gloved hands.

Photo courtesy of Vasque

Photo courtesy of Vasque

The Vasque Pow Pow III ($150) debuts a new sole with siping to channel slush away from the boot. Harder rubber on the outside of the sole provides a stable platform for winter hiking. The waterproof upper is insulated with 400g of Thinsulate and merino wool inside the cuff.

Photo courtesy of Keen

Photo courtesy of Keen

KEEN’s Terradora Winter Shell ($160) is a women’s-only waterproof/breathable model with 200g of KEEN’s proprietary insulation for warmth, and narrower heels and higher arches for a better fit—and more confidence—on the trail.

Photo courtesy of Columbia

Photo courtesy of Columbia

Columbia’s Canuk ($200) brings the brand’s successful OutDry Extreme tech to footwear. It’s a toaster: 600g of synthetic insulation coupled with Columbia’s Omni-Heat reflective lining to provide warmth. The Ice Control sole from Michelin combines grippy outsole compounds with a complex lug pattern that holds down to -30°F.

Photo courtesy of Lowa

Photo courtesy of LOWA

For heavy-duty winter backpacking and hunting, the Tibet Superwarm GTX ($435) from LOWA offers crampon-compatible support. It’s lined with Gore-Tex Duratherm for breathability and PrimaLoft 400 insulation for warmth, and it sports Vibram’s new Mottarone Arctic Grip sole for traction.

Photo courtesy of LaSportiva

Photo courtesy of LaSportiva

Winter runners, take note: La Sportiva’s Uragano GTX ($180) is a 10mm-drop trail runner that’s been fortified for nasty weather. The integrated gaiter keeps snow out, and a one-pull cinch system makes tightening easy, even with gloves on.

This article was originally published on p. 34 of the Day 0 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2017.

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